Cheap beer, cigarettes see sales bump amid sky-high inflation

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(NewsNation) — The sky-high inflation rates are impacting almost every purchase Americans make, with cheaper beer and cigarette companies gaining favor with penny-pinching shoppers.

Consumer prices in the U.S. rose at a 9.1% annual rate in June, the fastest pace in nearly 41 years. However, consumers aren’t giving up their vices, just switching to a cheaper alternative. Nearly half of all consumers surveyed said they were switching to cheaper alternatives to deal with inflation, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. One example: Marlboro, the best-selling cigarette brand, has seen sales shrink as discount cigarette sales rise.

“They’re willing to switch brands, they’re looking for cheaper cigarettes,” said Milosh Grcic, a Chicagoland area tobacco store owner. “A lot of people are gravitating towards the roll-your-own market, where they buy tobacco and they make their own cigarettes.”

Grcic said that overall he has seen an uptick in smoking and drinking amid the coronavirus pandemic and economic woes.

“Given some of the pressures that we’re all facing the past couple of years, I’m seeing a little bit of an uptick actually in general smoking,” Grcic said. “I think folks are leaning on their vices a little bit more.”

When it comes to beer, nonpremium brands have seen a big boost in sales. From June 4 through July 2, sales of economy beer increased 5.4% from the same period last year with Busch Light, Icehouse and Milwaukee’s Best experiencing the biggest gains, according to Bump Williams Consulting. Last year, retail stores’ sales of economy beer fell nearly 11%.

“Brand loyalty is a little hard to shake for folks, but they’re always asking for cheaper alternatives,” Grcic said.

This comes as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Sunday that growing consumer spending, industrial output, credit quality and other economic indicators don’t suggest the economy is in a recession, although she acknowledged that “way too high” inflation is straining the system.

“You don’t see any of the signs. Now, a recession is a broad-based contraction that affects many sectors of the economy. We just don’t have that,” Yellen said, but she acknowledged the impacts of uncommonly high inflation numbers

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